Essential Acoustic Guitar

Reviewed by: Mark Goldstein, March 2007
Published by: eMedia
Requires: Any personal computer capable of loading the DVD and playing the interactive video file including Windows 95 through Vista, Mac OS9, Mac OS X; playable on settop DVD players
MSRP: US$19.95

The art of planning, designing and developing training DVDs is more difficult that it may look at first glance. Matching content to target market, finding narrators who can appeal effectively to viewers, and building content that is stimulating, appropriately paced and moderately challenging amounts to a very difficult set of tasks. As far as I'm concerned, anybody who puts together a training DVD that doesn't meet with hoots of derisive laughter every time it runs deserves a medal of some sort. Essential Acoustic Guitar is an interactive training DVD — part of the eMedia Essential DVD Series — aimed at brand new beginner guitar players. No computer skills are needed to load and operate the DVD. For the record, I haven't touched a guitar in over 20 years.

We successfully tried Essential Acoustic Guitar on a variety of computers running a variety of operating systems and a variety of video cards and onboard graphics including an old Pentium II/266MHz with 64MB RAM, a dual core Windows Vista machine, an old G3 eMac running Mac OS 9 and a Mac PowerBook G4 running OS X Tiger. The software worked perfectly in all instances.


Essential Acoustic Guitar is organized using easy to understand notation for all the strumming patterns that are covered. You can navigate through the sequential lessons using the Forward and Backward on-screen arrows, or use the Menu button in your DVD player software to go directly to any lesson you want. Each lesson screen contains a Video button and an Audio button which can pressed for recorded demonstrations of the current lesson. The narrator/player is obviously an experienced teacher and the lesson scripts are clear and concise. Because Essential Acoustic Guitar is an interactive DVD, you can repeat lessons or move quickly through lessons or move at the recommended pace as you see fit.

After you run the DVD for the first time, you'll receive an email containing a download link to the Essential Acoustic Guitar Downloadable Toolkit. It contains four utilities which are accessed from a separate program panel: a tuner, a 250 chord dictionary, a metronome for keeping time, and a rudimentary recorder. The tuner module curiously has no close gadget, and because you can only run one of the utilities at a time, it's annoying to have to close the module via the program menu. The other modules have their own close gadgets. The audio quality of the tuner tones is quite low, and some of the tones contain audible ringing, not the best sort of thing to hear when you're trying to tune a guitar. The chord dictionary is comprehensive and, usefully, loads and plays its own good quality sound samples. The metronome is very useful as well, but again plays its beat at very low audio quality. The recorder is useful only for quick review, although it will certainly be of value to those who don't want to fiddle with Windows Recorder on the PC or Garage Band on the Mac.

Cons: Considering the average size of monitors these days, as well as the serious CPU power present even in five year old PCs and Macs, there's no reason for the lesson demonstration videos to be limited to 640x480 resolution. Video quality is acceptable but not particularly crisp. Give us at least 800x600 resolution at a quality level which provides a clear view of fine details. Good eyes can make use of smaller video windows quite easily and from a comfortable distance, but some of us have to crowd the guitar close to the edge of the desk to get a clear view — not the most comfortable way to learn the guitar. The songs used in the instructions are very old standards and even some of us who are over 40 could wish for a fresher syllabus.

Pros: Overall it's a good DVD. eMedia is a market leader in this kind of educational computer DVD, and offers dozens of instructional titles for guitar, bass, piano and keyboard. The lesson narration in Essential Acoustic Guitar consists of all the information you'd expect, augmented by interesting details about the history of some of the songs in the lessons, how various techniques are used in different kinds of music, and the ways in which each technique can be modified. The scope of lessons is quite comprehensive and, properly paced at two or three lessons per week, will likely take ten weeks. Don't forget to practice between lessons. Move through lessons at your own speed. The syllabus is well paced, clearly narrated and the demonstrator is very good. The DVD will run on just about any Windows PC or Mac. The bonus toolkit is useful — the chord dictionary and metronome in particular. Strumming techniques are covered properly. After a few lessons, I was back to my former, vaguely competent playing level. No access to a computer? The DVD is playable on component DVD players as well. The main reason I wanted to review Essential Acoustic Guitar was to help me pick things up again and it worked. For real beginners. Recommended.

KSN Product Rating:



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